Did you know the Bible is a love story? At first glance, it can seem like a thick history book filled with random people, hard-to-follow rules, and nearly impossible stories. But at its core, the Bible is a love story between God and people. It also includes human romance, and one such story is captured in the short book of Ruth. Hidden within its handful of pages is one of the most significant and intriguing concepts of the entire Bible: the kinsman-redeemer. If that term sounds foreign to you, let me show you how it applies to each and every one of us today.
Ruth, for whom the book is named, was raised in the land of Moab, southeast of Israel. The two nations were not always on friendly terms. While she was young, a famine hit all of Israel, resulting in some families moving to her country to survive. A family with two boys moved from Bethlehem to Ruth’s hometown. One of the boys fell in love with Ruth and married her, but in the span of ten short years, he and his brother and their dad had all died. Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, were suddenly widows. Homesick and grief-stricken, Naomi decided to return to her hometown of Bethlehem. Ruth loved her too much to let her go alone, so she also left her familiar surroundings to stay by her mother-in-law’s side. Arriving in Bethlehem at harvest time, Ruth wasted no time in looking for a field to gather grain left behind by the hired workers. [Note: Israel allowed the poor to gather grain missed by the harvesters.] Her days were long and the work was backbreaking, but she was thankful to have food to feed herself and Naomi. Her work ethic and beauty did not go unnoticed by the owner of the field, a wealthy man named Boaz.
So how does the kinsman-redeemer fit into this story of Ruth? In the event that a Jewish person became financially strapped, needing to sell his property, God made provision that a near-relative (kinsman) could buy back (redeem) the property for him. Before the famine, Naomi’s husband owned land in Bethlehem, but when she returned as a widow, the land belonged to someone else and she was penniless to buy it back. But it turned out that Boaz was a near-relative of Naomi’s family. He bought the land for her and also married Ruth. The story ends with Ruth having a child, who would later play an important part in the history of Israel.
Why is this love story in the Bible, having been retold countless times through the centuries? I think there are two significant reasons. First, it illustrates God’s love for people of all nations. At the time Ruth lived, some people thought God only loved the Jewish people. But God’s love did not stop at the physical border of Israel. It traveled far beyond it, deep into the land of Moab, reaching into the heart of a young widow to let her know that His love for her was real. Secondly, the importance of the kinsman-redeemer takes centerstage. You and I owe a debt to God for our sin and we are bankrupt to pay it. The story of Ruth reminds us that our only hope is to have a near-relative pay this debt for us. Fortunately for us, Jesus left heaven to become a member of the human race (our Kinsman). He lived a sinless life and, through His death on the cross, He paid our sin debt (our Redeemer). Jesus has made it possible for any person of any age in any nation to become a member of God’s family. This is summed up in First Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men.” My friend, I urge you to submit your life to Jesus and experience God’s love for yourself!